Friday, April 17, 2015

A Look at the New Yorker's Ninth Issue: April 18, 1925

H. O. Hofman's first New Yorker cover plays to one of the magazine's strengths: its theatre coverage. Fred and Adele Astaire are captivating Broadway audiences in 1925 and this cover illustration may be inspired by their stage magic. This angular composition offers us a privileged view from off in the wings. The stylized figures move downstage right in tandem, while the spotlight unites their shadows in an impossible trident. Indeed, there are quite a few triangles in this composition, and many of them converge at the same points. The color palette may be limited to blacks, pinks, and grays, but the excitement of live theatre is in no way limited. The bar across the cover's bottom edge has returned, as if to put the brakes--very gently--on all the excitement. Hofman will do some thirteen covers for the magazine.
H. O. Hofman, The New Yorker, April 18, 2015

"The Talk of the Town" page reveals all:
From "The Talk of the Town"

Reginald Marsh outdoes himself in a spread capturing the energy of the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Baily Circus. Wow!
Reginald Marsh, Lay-dees and-d Gent-tel-men-nn, I now Direct Yo' Kind At-ten-nshun-nn--

A publishing giant fades into retirement, but it isn't yet time to say "Rosebud."
"Mr. Hearst Retires"

A flapper in stripes:

John Held, Jr. may be drawing flappers himself for the old Life, but for the New Yorker he is getting nostalgic for the songs and sentiment of his youth. Here he cleans up the dialect of "Just Because She Made Dem Goo-Goo Eyes," which was originally a minstrel show song.
John Held, Jr., Just Because She Made Them Goo Goo Eyes

"Just Because She Made Dem Goo-Goo Eyes"
Music by Hughey Cannon
Lyrics by John Queen
Sheet Music

Arthur Collins sings "Just Because She Made Dem Goo Goo Eyes"
on 7-inch Zonophone 1569, recorded around 1901.

Ida Tarbell and other portraits from "The Hour Glass"

"Modom" by James Kevin McGuinness.

The New Yorker publishes satire by journalist Ben Hecht, who will go on to write "The Front Page."
"The Sacred White Cow"

The New Yorker has Alfred Steiglitz's number:
"Profiles" illustration of Alfred Stieglitz by Henry Major

"It takes all kinds/To make a town like ours." Baird Leonard's verse is rather amusingly illustrated by Einar Nerman.
"Metropolitan Monotypes" by Baird Leonard
Illustrated by Einar Nerman

"Metropolitan Monotypes" is a series. Judith Yaross Lee explains:
From Defining New Yorker Humor by Judith Yaross Lee, Univ. Press of Mississippi, 2000, page 329

"'Ruint,' by Hatcher Hughes, is a good folk play. According to what that means to you, you will or will not continue reading this notice. Either way, it will all be the same a hundred years from now." Or ninety.
"The Theatre"

"In the center picture, Mr. Howlett is trying to make Miss Freeman do something she doesn't want to do." The New Yorker explains William Congreve's "Love for Love" to its smart young readers.
W. E. Hill, "Love for Love"

"The primitive episode naturally suggests comparison with Stravinsky's 'Sacre du Printemps,' (which, by the way, this department doesn't regard very worshipfully), and approximates with a dozen players what Stravinsky drives out with a hundred." Take that, Igor!
Illustration of Emerson Whithorne by Henry Major

Presenting Arthur Watts's one and only cartoon for the magazine. It is rendered from a challenging aerial vantage point with crisp, clean lines, but the woman with the pram and even the dog are a little distracting. The gag, such as it is, would seem better suited to Punch, to which Watts has been contributing since 1912.
Arthur Watts, GUEST (who has been invited for a week-end at
his host's country COTTAGE): And very nice too!
HOST: Damn it, man! That's only the lodge.

It seems the "Goings On" page includes a greater number of charity events.
From "Goings On"

"To some he is an acquired taste." The New Yorker reviews a Joseph Stella show and notes that it "is worth several visits." Several!
"And as for his Venus--well we just don't like her." Here's what the New Yorker's readers didn't get to see for themselves unless they visited the Dudensing Galleries:
Joseph Stella, The Birth of Venus

"If this fad for 'hat dances' doesn't pass soon all our cabaret gents will be as bald as Maurice."
"Around the Clock"
Charles Baskervville, Frisco
Back Stage Club

Don't look down!
Spot drawing

I. Klein's first cartoon introduces his bold and distinctive drawing style. Just look at that El with the trolley beneath! Count the different hats! Lookit!
I. Klein, "Lookit, Pete who ever saw a pen yard look like that!
It's a dirty shame what them movie birds
puts over on the public!"

A bit of light verse marks Ring Lardner's first appearance in the magazine. The subject is the apparently solicitous theatre writer, director, and producer S. Jay Kaufman.
"The Constant Jay"
Ring Lardner

Another first appearance is that of E. B. White, who provides a humorous piece on how Madison Avenue promotes the spring! Why hasn't "Medical term for fertilizer" entered the lexicon?
"A Step Forward"
E. B. White

Gardner Rea's cartoon gets some good mileage from an old cliché. The artist's palette is too big and gives the critic the appearance of having insect wings. Rea makes some baffling choices, no?
Gardner Rea, "Wonderful, my boy, wonderful! Of course, I don't know anything about art, but I know what I like!"

"The Optimist" is a small bit of column filler which looks like a joke, but most likely isn't. Or rather the joke is that it isn't a joke. It recurs in every issue. Perhaps it is editor Harold Ross's good luck charm. This is followed by an early example of a Newsbreak.

In 1925, Tony Sarg is known as a cartoonist, an animator, and a puppeteer. In 1928, he will introduce the first balloons to the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. But for now, he just needs to get to work.

Gus Mager explains how songwriters get their exotic ideas. The scattered sheet music includes "Meet Me in St. Louis" which was very specifically about the site of the Louisiana Purchase Exposition in 1904 and in no way a lyricist's random whim.
Gus Mager, The Popular Song Writers Look Up a Few New
Names to Get Sentimental About

Those well-behaved college kids:
"Prohibition at Princeton"

A new section on a popular subject:

The advertising is getting more interesting. An ad from Charles Scribner's Sons announces the publication of The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald. There's also a book called What of It? by Ring Lardner. One of these authors appears in this issue of the magazine, but it is the other author's book that will become an instant classic.
Charles Scribner's Sons

"Help complete New York's Great Cathedral," the ad states. Today ninety years have passed and the Cathedral of St. John the Divine remains unfinished.
The Cathedral of St. John the Divine

How do you advertise an automobile to the New Yorker's upscale demographic? Well, you could try snob appeal. "Of several thousand Series 80 owners a surprising number have graduated from the ownership of cars costing less money." That's how it's done. Yours for just $2,895.
Pierce-Arrow Series 80

Note:  A word of friendly advice:  never look at the ninth issue of a magazine until you've read the eighth issue.

How do I know that Arthur Watts published only one cartoon in the magazine? That's easy. Michael Maslin has already done all the legwork. See his list of The New Yorker Cartoonists A-Z and note that some published only one cartoon and thus proudly belong to the One Club.



  1. Thank you for this fascinating and detailed post.
    I was most intrigued by the advert for THE GREAT GATSBY.
    But I am certain The New Yorker would have preferred
    to publish a Scott Fitzgerald story than advertise one.

    1. Eventually the New Yorker would publish three brief Fitzgerald stories and two poems between 1929 and 1937. They ran a Profile of the author in April of 1926.

  2. I was looking for a second image of the composer Emerson Whithorne -- funny finding it here. Here's a link to a prize-winning score of his:

    1. Thank you. I see you are a champion of Whithorne's music. Why did such a highly-praised composer vanish from he concert hall?